Monday, August 3, 2015

The Summer Suspense Continues...



Summer reading is great. There’s nothing better than diving into a book and losing yourself in the pages. However some books come with terrible consequences. Consequences that leave you extremely tired and grumpy the next morning. Like a hangover but not for drinking, it’s a hangover for staying up too late reading because you couldn’t, for the life of you, put the book down.  So WARNING: this book will give you a book-hangover. You’ve been warned. Now about the book…
So Cindy M Hogan, the amazing author of PROTECTED, book two in the WATCHED TRILOGY, does pretty bang-up job rehashing the first book without being too overly drawn out. You could probably even start on this book and pick up what’s happened, but why do that, right? Go ahead and read the first book then come back and read the rest of my post.
Don’t worry. I’ll wait…

Read it? Wasn’t it awesome?! 

The second one is even better! PROTECTED is filled to the brim with tension and page flipping suspense. You don’t know when or if the bad guys are going to show up and take out this poor girl. What I really liked about this book was the theme behind it, which I believe is accepting who you are and holding on to that. Without spoiling the book too much (this happens in the first few chapters), Christy gets put into witness protection and has to become another person, a person, who normally wouldn’t have great values or moral strengths. Christy is confronted with the opportunity to forget all the beliefs she has grown up with and truly change…for the better or worse? What the author does is show us that we must be true to ourselves at our center. Even if we are playing a part we have to remain true to our core beliefs. This book is very self-rewarding to read. 

Yes! I have already started on book three, CREATED, which I spent my entire day off reading. I am a slow reader but I am ¾ of the way through it already! The next book gets even better. I won’t spoil my thoughts on it yet—I haven’t finished. I will tell you I am all geared up with Cindy M Hogan’s new series featuring the same main character in the WATCHED TRILOGY. If you haven’t added this amazing series to your read list, now is the time! I’m serious when I say this series needs to be made into a movie!!

Summary: Christy has the guy. The terrorists have been taken care of, and she has a shot at becoming popular. Life is GREAT! Until they find her. Now she must run and leave behind everything she knows, including herself. When Christy returns home, she discovers that not much has changed. Not only is she still an outcast, but the bullies are even more persistent than before. When the guy that sends her pulse racing shows up, everything changes. Unfortunately, her feeling of triumph is short lived when the terrorists from DC come calling. Now, Christy and her boyfriend need to find a way to escape and hide.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Spooky Summer Reading

I am really amazed at how much summer reading I have been able to get done this year. Normally it's just a few books here and there but I am seriously cruising through them. It helps that I listen to most of them on audiobook as I illustrate. Something I believe everyone should try at least onceaudiobooks are so full of imagery and can really heighten the emotions. I'm still blazing through Protected, by Cindy M. Hogan, book 2 in the Watched series, and I just started reading The Hidden Kingdom, by R.K. Hinrichsen, with my girls. I'll let you know what I think of those soon.

The Thickety: The Whispering Trees, by J.A. White, is just as creepy-crawly as its predecessor, hands down! When Kara’s father becomes possessed by some deranged witch hunter from long ago she and her brother Taff are driven out of the village into the Thickety itself. There Kara comes face to face with Mary Kettle, a dark witch who used to boil children for magic, and if that’s not spooky enough, she meets the forest demon and his coven of followers. Some of the themes discussed in this book I believe are a little too dark for younger middle-grade readers but I think older tweens and teens would get a kick out of these creepy pages. I enjoyed this book just as much as the first book and I can hardly wait for book three to be released. YES! This book ends on a HUGE cliff hanger like in book 1. What I especially liked about this book was the redemptive qualities explored. This book begs the question: even if someone has committed the worst of crimes, can they find forgiveness from others? Can they be redeemed? It’s a very hopeful thought. Over all a super fun and spooky read!

Summary: After Kara Westfall's village turns on her for practicing witchcraft, she and her brother, Taff, flee to the one place they know they won't be followed: the Thickety. Only this time the Forest Demon, Sordyr, is intent on keeping them there. Sordyr is not the Thickety's only danger: unknown magic lurks behind every twist and shadow of the path. And then they discover Mary Kettle, an infamous witch with a horrifying past. She offers to lead them out of the Thickety while teaching Kara how to cast spells without a grimoire. The children are hesitant to trust her . . . but this could be their only chance to escape. Or the first step down a dark and wicked path.

Book three, The Thickety: Well of Witches, is expected for publication February 2016.Make sure you add it to your list on Goodreads so you don;t miss it when it hits the shelves.

Link: http://www.amazon.com/Thickety-Whispering-Trees-J-White/dp/0062257293/

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Query Process Update



So it’s been 4 weeks since I started sending out query letters again (note the ‘again’ since this is the fifth run of queries). This is the time when I start to get antsy. I really want to know what’s going to happen. Will they ask for a full? Will they even read it? Will they even bother to reply (since that seems to be the norm for agents now a day, which I find very rude since I took the time to research them and personalize each query)? Will they offer me representation? All of these questions I wanted answered yesterday. Patience for me doesn’t come easily.

Currently I’m shopping two books: the first is a chapter book about two kids that have to save their grandfather’s museum from closing by traveling through time to collect ancient artifacts (think of it as A Night at the Museum meets The Magic Tree House); the second is a middle-grade book about two kids that discover their parents are witch hunters at the same time witches invade their school disgusted as glamorous lunch ladies (a Spy Kids meets The Witches kind of book).

Before I share my results I wanted to share how I go about sending queries. I use awesome websites like www.querytracker.com to find potential agents. I make a long list of those that are open to submissions and actually accept what I write. My goal is to find an agent that reps picture books up to YA. If they rep artists too, all the better. After my list is formed I begin to weed out the ones that wouldn’t be a good fit, this happens by researching each agent. I Google them and read what I find: interviews, blog posts, rants on Twitter and Facebook (all of it good info). It takes about a week of researching to form my list of 15-20 agents I want to send to. Once I got my list, I divide it half and start submitting.
Results from this round (so far): 

  • The Chapter book: 2 full requests followed by 2 “great story, fun characters, but not for me.” One agent, whom I really feel would be a good fit did ask for my next submission after rejecting this one. I’ve also gotten a handful of “thanks, but no thanks”.
  • The Middle-Grade book: 1 full request (by agent mentioned above) and 3 rejections (all of them very nice replies complementing the characters, storyline, ect, but not finding it the right fit).

Not bad for 4 weeks. I’ll give this round two more weeks and send out another wave of ten. Most of the agents that say, “I’m too busy to reply” are rejecting me by week 6 anyway. Really I don’t understand the “I’m too busy.” Clicking reply, typing “no”, and clicking send takes less than 10 seconds. At least then I would know they looked at it, right? Wish me luck. This is the worst part about being an author.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer Reading Suspense



I love to mix things up a bit in my reading so after reading a MG fantasy I picked up a YA suspense. This particular book my wife had been begging me to read forever. I’m not even sure why I hadn’t read it to begin with since I know and adore the author, Cindy M Hogan. Cindy is the spunkiest, most energetic, positive person I know. In fact, if the super optimistic Olaf from Disney’s Frozen had a sister it would be Cindy. She just makes you feel a live and feel great. You would not think a sweet, outgoing, loving person would be able to write clench-your-teeth-suspense but SHE DOES!! And she does it very well.

Okay…embarrassing moment for me: I started reading this book on my kindle after my wife decided to turn in early. So I’m lying in bed and the tension in this books is high (hello, this man gets his head chopped in the first chapter and these kids might be next—no that’s not a spoiler, that’s the premise). It’s dark around me and all I have is the light from the kindle. I hear a creek and I’m like, what was that?! I continue reading; once again I am sucked into the tension. Then my wife scoots her leg over and it touches my foot!! I jumped too high I about threw the kindle across the bedroom. My wife thought this was the funniest thing ever and spent the next ten minutes laughing at me. So yes! This book will grab hold of you and not let you go. While it’s not that terrifying of a book (it is definitely NOT a horror story), it has this voice that just makes your heart race and you find yourself reading page after page.

Another thing that ready resonated well with this book is the voice of the main character, Christy. She sounds so real! I love that this is written in first person and we get to listen to all that internal dialogue. She feels, sounds, and thinks like a normal 15 year-old girl (at least what I believe would be so, since I have never been a 15 year-old girl). I particularly like that Christy has an internal struggle with choosing to do the right and wrong thing. I like that we see her will sometimes falter when placed against desiring temptations. I really think teens would benefit from reading this book!! They would see they’re not alone when it comes to peer pressure and the need to feel wanted and befriended. When I spoke to my wife about the book (after she had stopped teasing me of course) she told me the same thing: that she really connected with Christy and she felt like she was her in high school. So bravo, Cindy!

Watched, by Cindy M Hogan, is the first book in the Watched Trilogy. Lucky for me my wife is a huge fan of Cindy’s and we own all the books. I can’t wait to start reading book two, Protected. So if you are looking for a great-keep-you-up-at-night book. This is one for you.

Synopsis:

Change.
She longs for it.
A murder.
She will never be the same.

It takes more than a school trip to Washington, D.C. to change Christy's life. It takes murder.
A witness to the brutal slaying of a senator's aide, Christy finds herself watched not only by the killers and the FBI, but also by two hot guys. She discovers that if she can't help the FBI, who want to protect her, it will cost her and her new friends their lives.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Take On Self-Publishing



I belong to a wonderful group of authors on Facebook called The Authors Think Tank. This group is filled with writers in all stages of their career. We help motivate each other, respect each other, and help each other succeed. I love this group! Today I saw a request for everyone to share their feelings on self-publishing and whether or not it was right for them. It really got me thinking about my own personal path in publishing and how I feel about things now that I’ve been a self-publishing author for several years. Here’s my own response:

I shopped my first book around agents and publishers for almost 3 years because it has ALWAYS been my goal to be traditionally published. When I finally got a publishing contract offered by a small but competitive house, I declined it after not being able to resolve an issue with giving up my audio rights (the refused to produce an audiobook but wouldn't allow me to create my own). I had other concerns with the distribution as well. Like most small presses they use Createspace (an Amazon owned company to distribute paperbacks). This was something I could do on my own and have done for other self-published authors (I'm a cover designer, formatter, and project manager; basically I get paid to help others self-publish). So I already knew the ins and outs to create and publish a book. The only thing this publisher was really offering me was a hand in the marketing. So I did the hardest thing EVER and declined the contract, sent the book to another freelance editor and self-published it. Was that the right path? At the time, yes.

After self-publishing 5 novels, 3 picture books, and illustrating 6 more picture books that were also self-published, I began seeing that I was only self-publishing because it was the easy thing to do. The more books I released the less effort I put into the marketing of them and slowly my sales began to drop. As long as I was out there, day and night, pushing my books the sales were there. The moment I stopped, the sales dropped. How nice it would be if I didn't have to handle ALL the marketing. So I am once again trying the path of traditional publishing. I want this to be a lifelong career and I need help to do that. I need a great agent to find me some awesome publishing houses to make my books their priority.

I believe self-publishing is a great place to start. I've learned so much I could teach a full course on the ins and outs of it. I'm not against self-publishing—if it's done right. If the author gets a flawless cover, hires a detailed editor, and writes a great story. So many hurry-to-publish-authors  muddy the water with crap that makes it harder for the rest of the awesome self-published books to be seen. So, yes, self-publishing CAN be good. It was for me.

But is it for everyone? Is it for you?

What are your goals, dreams, and aspirations when it comes to your book? Will you feel comfortable being the only author selling your own books at a mass author signing (yes, I've been there and felt really awkward and out of place)? Will you be comfortable doing all the work (for a while I was but now I'm burnt out)? Will you feel comfortable when your own public library declines to carry your book because it's self-published (even after I donated my books they didn't shelf them, they sold them for 25 cents)? Will you feel comfortable feeling like you're the only supporter of your book (at times you'll have to because you don't have a publisher qualifying your book)? Will you feel comfortable being in charge of everything (which I liked A LOT)? Will you be comfortable claiming you are a self-published author?


Ask yourself all these questions and more. Then weigh if you truly want all that. For me, I'm ready to climb a different mountain. Is it hard for me to do this? Yes! I have emails from kids asking and begging me to get another book out for them to read. I’ve written three more books that I have not released so I can shop them traditionally. It hurts, it really does, to tell these kids I won’t be releasing anything soon. But I have come to the realization that for the market in which I write, traditional publishing is the best path for me. It’s the path that is going to stabilize my writing career. Maybe when I’ve arrived on that summit I’ll discover it’s not all chocolates and roses (I know deep down that it’s not) and I’ll move on. First I have to get there.